Boundries Essay

1007 words - 5 pages

Life in every neighbourhood appears to be ordered and structured. There are set rules and habits of neighbouring that conform how people live together and interact on the street. This assignment will aim to examine the argument that desirable neighbouring is characterised by both distance and proximity, drawing upon theories and evidence produced by social scientists. Firstly we need to understand the important paradox that surrounds neighbourhood life, and how these are often places that are expected to be two things at once. On one hand, they appear to be close knit communities, full of friendly occupants where unity is the standard. On the other, a place where residents are allowed to live their lives in privacy (Byford, 2009, p. 251)

As Jovan Byford states, the paradox often becomes apparent when people are looking to buy a new home. Estate agents will try to sell a property, not just on the physical assets but also the image that desirable neighbours will be living next door. The characteristics given to the ‘perfect neighbours’ are much like the ones given to neighbourhoods in that they contradict each other. This is something that has been a large focus of social science research, with much of the study conducted in this area producing similar results. During 1986, Willmott conducted a study in the UK into ‘what makes the perfect neighbour’. He found that people wanted their neighbours to have a ‘general disposition towards friendliness’ whilst at the same time knowing when to ‘respect each other’s need for privacy and reserve’ (Willmott, cited in Byford, 2009, p. 253). Crow et al., echoed these results in 2002. They found that people believed a good neighbour is ‘friendly’ and ‘available in times of trouble’ but should also know when to ‘mind their own business’ (Crow et al., cited in Byford, 2009, p. 254). Furthermore, it has been proven that these ideas of the perfect neighbour are not exclusive to the UK as studies in the USA have produced virtually identical results. One conclusion that can be made from looking at these results is that there is a fine line between a good neighbour and a nosy neighbour.

Being able to negotiate a fine line is something people do without conscious thought on a daily basis. From a young age, people learn through socialisation how to create and maintain social order. Harold Garfinkel suggested that this process is like a slow dance (Garfinkel, cited in Byford, 2009, p.173-174). Take being a neighbour for example, when someone steps into the identity of being a neighbour they bring with them a pre-learned knowledge of the unwritten rules and regulations that are considered to be standard. It is only when the social order is ‘breached’ that people consciously take notice of what is happening around them. One way in which the social order in a neighbourhood can be breached is when neighbours fail to agree on how the neighbouring rules should be interpreted. This can lead to misunderstanding, and someone...

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